Category Archives: Miscellany

Trust Yourself

I’m posting here an email I just received from Monica Schultz – creator and founder of The WorkLife Lab
 
I hope you’ll like it as much as I did!
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stellarfield“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare

Not happy where you’re at, but don’t know where to go? It feels stressful, deadening, and overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

 
The key is to trust yourself even though your current work may have you questioning past moves and decisions.
 
If you’re making a living, but feel dead inside, below are proven – and safe – ways to find direction:
 
Don’t quit your day job – yet. You heard me. Sure, financial pressure is a great motivator, but for those of us who have a career to “fall back on,” that’s usually what we do: fall and go back. Then we can find ourselves more dejected than when we started. The truth is, the less financial pressure you’re under, the more experimental you can be. Trust your current work has something to teach you in terms of skills and/or personal development.
 
Do something you love – or you think you might love. Anything. It doesn’t have to make sense. Play. Experiment. Meet people with similar interests. Once you start moving in a direction – ANY direction – life has a way of providing connections and recalibrates your course. Some people even find they enjoy their work more – and find they have it better than they thought.
 
Be patient. Focus on finding, doing, and fitting more activities you love in your life. Don’t set a timeline of “I’ll be doing X in three months.” Intentions are fine, but if you find out you hate “X,” then where does that leave you? However, if you steadily add 15 minutes here and one hour there of things you enjoy, life becomes animated. Which brings me to . . .
Serendipity. Allow for synchronicity. Plan a path, but be willing to go off it should an interesting opportunity arise. If you talk to people who really love what they do, you’ll find they had strange ways of getting there. It wasn’t all planned on paper, though a map did have a role.
 
Don’t panic or lose hope if you don’t know what you want to do next. It’s the perfect opportunity to play with your ideas and dreams. As Steve Jobs said:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
This week, do something you love, no matter how silly, and trust that it will take you that next step forward.
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Note added: the quotation by Steve Jobs is from his famous Stanford Commencement Speech in 2005. You can watch it here if you’ve never seen it before.
PS If you wish to find out more about Monica and the work she does, follow her or subscribe to her bi-weekly newsletter at The WorkLife Lab
…and by the way… she has the nicest logo I’ve ever seen! 🙂

On Time Management and Life

sand-stone-jar

Some days ago, I got an email from a colleague asking whether I could suggest a book or course on time management that he could share with his students. On the spot, I did not know exactly what to reply other than sharing some techniques which have been useful for me.

But then I remembered a story I read once and I suddenly realised that that story probably holds the secret for accomplishing what is really important to us. And in so doing, it also reminds us of the things that really matter in life.

 ****

One day a wise teacher was speaking to a group of his students. He pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of him. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.

When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked, “Is this jar full?”

Everyone in the class said, “Yes.”

“Really?” he asked. “Let’s see.” He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar, causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Looking carefully from face to face, he smiled benevolently and asked again, “Is the jar full?”

His class was catching on quickly. “Probably not,” one of them answered.

“Very good!” he replied. He then reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. When he was finished he once again asked, “Is this jar full?”

“No!” the class shouted.

“Excellent!” he replied. Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and poured it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Once again looking intently into the eyes of each student, he asked, “What is the point of this illustration?”

One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it!”

“Aha, that’s very good!” the teacher replied, “But let us look a bit deeper. This illustration also teaches us a higher truth: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you will never get them in at all!”

(Author unknown.)

***

As the year draws to a close, I hope you may find some time to reflect on your ‘big rocks’ for the new year ahead. Is this something you want to accomplish, maybe finish off your PhD thesis, or submit that long-due paper? Is it re-gaining your physical fitness? Is it learning a new skill that would be useful for your next career move? Or is it starting a journey of personal growth? Or simply spending more quality time with your loved ones?

Whatever your priorities are, my wish for you is that you may treasure this story and find a way to put your big rocks first, before any pebbles or sand.

 

2012 in review

2013

As 2012 draws to a close, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all – my readers, subscribers, and followers – for your interest, feedback, and trust over the last 12 months.

This blog is now a little over a year old, and it’s been a privilege for me to be able to share some of my tips and advice with many students and early career academics.

I am grateful for the very positive feedback I have received from many of you and I hope you will continue to find the material I post here useful and interesting.

May you have a successful and prosperous 2013!

PS Oh, by the way… the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog. Scroll down to find out more.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 15,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 3 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Free Education for All: A Vision from Creative Minds

Is free education for all a dream or a reality?

What difference would it make if everyone had a chance to a better education?

Want to find out?

Then, watch this inspirational TED talk from Daphne Koller, co-founder (with Andrew Ng) of Coursera, a new platform bringing courses from top universities around the world on-line, for free, to anyone who wants to take them. It’ll be 20 minutes well spent.